Song of Moses

Exodus 15:1-21

Remember the old television program recounting World War II called VICTORY AT SEA. The first VICTORY AT SEA is recorded in Chapters 14 and 15 of Exodus. Exodus 15 is the oldest Hebrew poetry in existence, written by Moses over 3,400 years ago. Many ancient words and words of Egyptian source authenticate its origin. Its Hebrew parallelism structure is very ancient, being much more free and inartificial than later poetry.

The Song divides into two parts. Up to the end of verse 12 it is HISTORICAL and the remainder expresses the HIGH HOPES inspired by the Red Sea Crossing. The future is made certain by God’s action in the past.

The Song of Moses itself is the product of a new experience, an experience of both God and people—as Liberator and liberated. The acts of God on Israel’s behalf are emphasized, but they are not isolated from human experience. Very specific human needs are expressed to which God responded quite directly. God’s saving acts come to expressed need and they are not isolated from the human response to that divine experience.

In Exodus 4:22-23, God instructed Moses—

Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,and I told you, “Let my son go, so that he may worship me.”

The underlying purpose of God’s deliverance of Israel was to receive WORSHIP and GLORY. To have His Name HALLOWED on the earth. Without the praise, God’s victory would not become known before the world. God’s goals are dependent on Israel’s praise. While God’s work is overriding, human response is essential. If there were no human response, what God had done would not become known; it would be like a rock falling into the sea. The human response makes a difference to God.

The Crossing of the Red Sea results in the people fearing the LORD and putting their trust in Him and Moses His servant, singing praises, engaging in rituals—Passover, unleavened bread, redemption of firstborn; and retelling the story of what God has done. THE SONG OF MOSES retells the story of salvation with various aspects of worship and religious commitment centered in the PRAISE OF THANKSGIVING.

Praise functions both as adoration and as witness, as honoring of God, and as a witness about God before the entire world. Gratitude is giving testimony to others regarding what God has done.

The praise as glorification of God harks back to 14:4, 17-18, where Yahweh speaks of gaining glory over Pharaoh and his army. But God’s glory is not rooted in a divine self-centeredness, as if glorification of God were a matter of God basking in the applause of Israel. Thanksgiving to God is not fundamentally a matter of God taking everlasting curtain calls from an eternally grateful people. One gives honor to God, not in response to a command, but because it is proper and right to do so. Even more, praise and thanksgiving are finally a matter of witness before the entire world. Psalm 22:3 says—

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

It makes a difference to God that He is praised. For this means that God’s Name and reputation is enhanced before the world. What God has done reverberates throughout the earth, calling attention to His identity and all that God is about in the world. Praise enhances the attractiveness of God. People may be drawn to the LORD when they hear all that has been done.

Therefore, we the redeemed people of God gather together on the LORD’S DAY to worship Him with songs of praises and thanksgiving. Our giving God the glory enhances His attractiveness to a lost world.

A person in bondage has nothing to sing about. Singing God’s praises is the natural and spontaneous response of a redeemed people. Exodus 15:1-2—

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Up to this moment, we have not heard so much as single note of praise. We have heard, however, Israel’s cry of deep sorrow as they toiled in Egypt. What a remarkable change in attitude! Before the Israelites joined in with Moses to sing to their God the song of redemption, they were singing the blues—the Desert Blues. They are singing joyfully now! This is the same crowd that only a few hours before on the other side of the Red Sea were grumbling, crying out that they should never have been brought out of Egypt.

Yet, we read in Hebrews 11:29—

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.

And I Corinthians 10:2 tells us—

They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

Certainly, they were identified with Moses. It was Moses’ faith that raised the staff and stretched out his hand over the Sea to divide it. Moses led them across. When they reached the other side of the sea, Moses lifted the song of deliverance.

Now they have seen the salvation of the LORD. They have been baptized into Moses and they respond in song. The waters of the Red Sea rolled between them and Egypt, and they stood on the shore as fully delivered people, therefore, they are able to praise Yahweh. They have become a new creation.

This is what happens when we trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is the One who takes us out of bondage and darkness of this world. He leads us across the Red Sea—separating us from the world and its power. We too experience the power of Christ’s death and resurrection before we can present clear and intelligent worship. It is His deliverance and His salvation and His redemption. He brings us to the place where we can lift a song of redemption to Him.

In this Song we find not a single note about self, its sayings, its doings, its feelings, or its fruits—its all about Yahweh! Thus, should it be with the Church on earth; and when it is not so, it is because we allow things to intrude upon us that have no place in true worship. God Himself is at once the object, subject, and power of worship. Worship begins with the heart overflowing with the joy of redemption.

In the great deliverance, man has borne no part. It is Yahweh who has triumphed gloriously over Pharaoh and Egypt, who represented to the Israelites the world, slavery, hopelessness and helplessness. Now they are delivered and who gets the credit? There voices in one accord sing—HE HAS BECOME MY SALVATION. Exodus 15:3-5—

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has
hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep
waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.

THE LORD IS A WARRIOR, but not one single instrument of human warfare is mentioned. The sword that Pharaoh draws is not opposed by another sword; the chariot that he rides is not met by another chariot; the army that he leads clashes with no human fighting force. But the defeat is total and complete!

Who is this Warrior that can accomplish such a victory? YAHWEH IS HIS NAME!

Egypt is the historical embodiment of the forces of chaos led by Satan, threatening to undo God’s creation. God has brought divine judgment upon the demonic gods of Egypt in the plagues, and at the Red Sea, He has defeats Pharaoh. Of course, all of this foreshadows Jesus victory over the demons during His earthly ministry and the defeat of their leader, Satan, which Christ obtained by the Cross and Empty Tomb.

Instead of the RED SEA, which symbolizes death, Satan and his followers will be cast into the LAKE OF FIRE according to Chapter 20 of Revelation—

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

As with Moses and the Red Sea, Yahweh will deliver His people from the Lake of Fire by baptism into Christ and the Church will stand on the shores of heaven praising His name forever!

Moses and Israel sings of God’s consuming anger in Exodus 15:6-8—

“Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

We like to think of God in terms of LOVE, but we often neglect to think about Him in terms of WRATH. Hebrews 12:29 also reminds us our “God is a consuming fire.” He unleashes His burning anger and it consumes like stubble and overwhelms like surging waters on those who oppose Him. What has happen to Egypt is just a prelude to the Wrath of God and the Lamb that will be unleashed upon the world in Tribulation Period.

We like to sing about the LOVE OF GOD, but when it the last time you sang about the WRATH OF GOD? How few glory in God’s holiness! How few praise Him for His fearfulness!

It is only the sickly sentimentality of the flesh, which shrinks from believing and mediating upon the wrathful side of God’s nature. Far different were the sentiments of Israel here than those which govern most of modern thinking. There is not going to be sickly sentimentality in heaven. When God acts in the final judgment, the saints in heaven are going to shout “Hallelujah!—Praise Yahweh!

If you make it to heaven, YOU WILL SING of the praises of God’s wrath while playing a harp. This SONG OF MOSES along with the Lamb’s Song will be sung at the defeat of the end times Pharaoh known by the titles “the Antichrist” and “the Beast.” Turn to Revelation 15:1-3—

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.

THE SEA OF GLASS MIXED WITH FIRE is a symbolic description of the raptured and rewarded Church following the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The redeemed Church will experience the Exodus before the waters of judgment fall on this earth. All baptized into Christ will be raptured as all baptized into Moses safely reached the shore before God’s wrath fell upon Egypt. The redeemed and raptured Church will be watching at throne in heaven when the Lamb opens the first seal of His wrath and when the Antichrist is defeated. Based on what Exodus foreshadows, Paul can confidently write in 1 Thessalonians 5:9—

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If it were not for God’s deliverance, the enemy would have decimated God’s people. Exodus 15:9-12 pictures the striking ease which the Almighty overthrew His enemies—

“The enemy boasted, `I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.

There have been hints of God’s holiness in Genesis and Exodus. God set aside the seventh day and made it holy. He told Moses that he was standing on holy ground, but verse 11 is noteworthy because it is the first announcement of the holiness of God in Scripture—WHO IS LIKE YOU—MAJESTIC IN HOLINESS, AWESOME IN GLORY, WORKING WONDERS?

God is called HOLY because He is absolutely separate from everything else. He is altogether pure, spotless, perfection—God is Light.

After the victory at the Red Sea, the conflicts that lie ahead are all settled and Israel has the Promised Land. Moses lists the nations roughly in the order along the route that Israel would eventually follow on their way to the Promised Land. Exodus 15:13-16—

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by.

Moses actually writes in the Hebrew perfect mood (English past tense) in verses 13-16. But sometimes in Hebrew, future events are conceived so vividly and so realistically that they are regarded as having virtually taken place and are described by the perfect.

The NIV and KJV translate the action in future tense in verses 13-16. The NRSV expresses a completed action, which is more accurate. Moses is so certain that God will accomplish what He promises that he writes it as already done. The things said in these verses are actually prophetic and secured.

The larger world is clearly in view in the SONG OF MOSES. According to verse 14, the peoples of the world have already heard; the word has gotten around quickly indeed. It is as if the praise articulated in the opening verses spreads like wildfire and those who have heard can be incorporated into the song before it is finished!

THE NATIONS HEARD AND TREMBLE; ANGUISH WILL GRIP THE PEOPLE. A simple report of slaves escaping from Egypt would have put the fear of God in few, if any. But if that escape is interpreted in terms of the worldwide purposes the Creator God who is about the business of setting a chaotic, oppressive world straight, then the people have reason to be gripped with terror. Such will be the case in the Tribulation according to Revelation 6:15-16—

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

What God has done to the Egyptians is central to this Song. However, only verse 4 refers specifically to Egypt. We certainly can read Egypt into other verses. Yet, the song reaches beyond Egypt. The praise of what God has done can be applied more generally to God’s activity.

He is one who shatters enemies, overthrows adversaries, and consumes the opposition in wrath. Man of war, power, strength, right hand, arm, greatness, majesty, holiness, fury, terrible, glorious deeds, wonders, guidance, redemption, steadfast love is made applicable to God’s work everywhere. This Creator God is at work in this way all over the world. No wonder the other nations are trembling.

The theme of QUEST FOR PLACE is picked up as the Song ends with a triumphant note in Exodus 15:17-18—

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The LORD will reign for ever and ever.”

This is the look of faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Moses sees the Temple on Mount Zion in the City of Jerusalem. It will take 480 years until Israel’s QUEST FOR PLACE will be realized when the Shekinah Glory of God fills Solomon’s Temple! But that inheritance is secure in God’s promise.

Due to Israel’s unbelief, however, God’s Shekinah Glory departs the Temple in the time of Ezekiel and does not reappear until Christ’s enters the Temple on the eighth day after His birth when he is taken in the arms of Simeon, who praises God saying—

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

But Israel along with the Gentiles crucify the LORD OF GLORY and He returns to heaven. The Temple is destroyed in A.D. 70 for the second time. Prophecy declares that when Christ returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom, He will sit on His throne in the Temple at Jerusalem. Again, Moses’ Song will be realized. That is another reason the saints will sing it in heaven!

From the Red Sea victory onward, it may be said that YAHWEH REIGNS FOREVER AND EVER! Not just over Israel, but all nations. Thus, this closing verse of Moses’ Song looks forward to not only the Millennial reign of Christ, but to God’s eternal reign in the eternal state. Fully assured that God is sovereign—faith views the eternal future with a tremor!

Exodus 15:19-20 add—

When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the
waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the
women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.

This is the earliest recognition of the place of women in public worship. It leads me to believe that the whole service was responsive. Moses and the men are answered by Miriam and the Women. Miriam is identified as the prophetess, Aaron’s sister. Though we read not of anything remarkable that Miriam did but this in the Exodus Experience, we read in Micah 6:4—

I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.

Scripture may be silent to the significant role Miriam played but the LORD took notice. So it is with everyone who does not receive recognition in this life for the good things they have done.

Exodus 15:21 is often called the Song of Miriam—

Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.”

This verse rather than being a new song is a responsive chorus conducted by Miriam, which was probably repeated after each stanza of the Song of Moses. It comes from the first verse of the Song.

There have been times in the history of the Church that musical instruments have been condemned and even singing. Martin Luther brought singing back into the church with the reformation. Imagine this scene of women dancing, singing and playing tambourines. There is a time coming that some in heaven when you are going to play a harp and sing—and possibly dance!

If that does not sound exciting to you, you need to dig deeper into the meaning of your salvation in Christ.

Worship ought to be the greatest thing in your life! God saved you and He expects to gain glory from your praises of thanksgiving!

If you come to worship and it is a hum-drum experience, you need to present yourself as a living sacrifice and renew your mind. Get a good night’s sleep—come refreshed—expect to give rather than receive. Sing with all your heart the praises of the LORD!

Do you think God cares if your singing is off key, screechy or scratchy? He could care less—He made you that way! Do you think God cares if you don’t sing? Absolutely! Remember that conversation at the Burning Bush—

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:10-11).

From gratitude springs trust and praise. Exodus 15:2 is a key to worship—

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Come to worship with this mind-set and you will have exhilarating experience.

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.

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